Leinster 29 Ospreys 7
To be winning with a bonus point and still to be “miles off where we can be and need to be” – as Leo Cullen put it – is hardly a predicament. Leinster were haunted by the unlikely prospect of another version of last season, where they had Ospreys buried only to suffer their resurrection. Not this time. The main issue for Cullen was the circuitous route taken to securing the winning bonus point. First world problems then.
It was a miserable night from which a few good things emerged. James Lowe is back in business, scoring from distance within a couple of minutes of coming on. Harry Byrne picked up the man of the match award, good going given he was at centre, outside his brother Ross who played very well. Even better going considering Scott Penny was the best player on the field.
In fairness to the younger Byrne, he wasn’t slow to acknowledge the flanker’s quality.
“Penny is brilliant,” he said. “Penny was the year below me in school, so I played with him the whole way up really, from second year onwards. Then played together in underage teams and in Leinster here as well. He's a phenomenal player. Works very hard off the pitch and on the pitch as well. Delighted for him that he's going so well."
Penny wasn’t the only talent on view. Jamie Osborne was also very good. Throughout his 11 previous appearances last season and in this one, if you hadn’t appreciated his booming left boot, you do now.
Unlike Penny, who is in a highly congested back row queue, Osborne has a bit more room to move in midfield. It would require an injury or two elsewhere, but you shouldn’t be alarmed if he ends up going to the World Cup next year.
“Yeah, he’s a talented player, is Jamie,” Cullen said, sounding like he really didn’t want to big up a lad still in the Academy. “It’s just to make sure he’s getting developed all the time, adding little layers to his game. He’s very diligent and definitely an exciting one for the future.”
While Leinster struggled to make hay while there was no sunshine, at least they stuck to the task. It was late in the day when Penny got over for the bonus-point try, covering over cracks that included getting held up over the line a couple of times and having a Luke McGrath try scrubbed by the TMO. So it could and should have been a more comfortable spin. Instead, they needed the surge in energy and grunt coming off the bench.
“Just to add that experience bit as well,” Cullen said. “It's going to be incredibly tight, I think, towards the top end of the table and we've had a lot of home games, so we're going to have a lot of away games towards the tail-end of the season. It's making sure we try and bank as many points as we can at the moment.
“So great to get five points, now it's on to the Lions pretty quickly - six-day turnaround, and we'll recover well. We’ll lose a couple of players back into (Ireland) camp and it's just important that the group we have here is nice and competitive, and we put in a decent week's work.”
Business as usual then.
Leinster: J O’Brien (A Byrne 73); J Larmour, J Osborne, H Byrne, D Kearney (J Lowe 54); R Byrne, L McGrath (capt)(N McCarthy 63); C Healy (P Dooley 54), J Tracy (S Cronin 55), M Ala’atoa (T Clarkson, blood, 10-19; 68), R Molony, R Baird (J Dunne 68), M Molony (R Ruddock 54), M Deegan, S Penny
Ospreys: D Evans; K Giles, M Collins, K Williams (T Thomas-Wheeler 67), L Morgan; S Myle (G Anscombe 60), R Webb (R Morgan-Williams 76); N Smith (R Jones 55), S Parry (E Taione 55) T Botha (R Henry 55), B Davies (L Ashley 67), W Griffiths, E Roots, M Morris (yc 29-39; D Lydiate 55), H Deaves
Referee: A Brace (IRFU)